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France, Paris XVIII: Paris Underground - Métropolitain

Published: 24.9.2014
Welcome to the capital of France – the city of artists, coffee bars, and gourmet experiences! Writers write constantly what happens on the surface, and there are even more movies. Yet often one of the largest sights in Paris is forgotten and it is mostly underground. Yes, it is Métropolitain, or Métro for short.

Except the fact that system of underground rails in Paris is the second busiest in Europe behind Moscow , almost every other underground railway in the world has a name resembling that in Paris. Even Londoners would easily understand the word metro. And it is so even though we were said that English metro is actually underground and the one in London tube.

francouzske podzemi

In Corridor Labyrinth

Paris underground is like a world within a world. It has almost nothing to do with what happens on surface. Few steps on stairs and busy boulevard is replaced by small underground anthill. Except the entrance to the metro there are couple of stands – baguettes, fruits, vegetables, flowers… Ticket machines accept cards, luckily, so I can buy a one day ticket. I pass through clever tourniquet and enter complex labyrinth of corridors. About twenty percent of 303 stops are transfer stations. I am at République, one of the largest and most complex. Yet you can get almost anywhere from this station.

francouzske podzemi

The first Métropolitain line (after the name of the company Compagnie du chemin de fer métropolitain de Paris) was opened on July 19, 1900 during the World Expo in Paris. Until the beginning of the second world war thirteen lines were built in Paris. Only the line 14 was built in the 1990s as fully autonomous and operated by a computer.

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More than 4 million people a day

The end to my wandering. Finally I found the platform. Metro is frequent here. Despite this afternoon it is very crowded (I didn’t try it in the morning, it would be probably even worse). As it is said – one is happy to stand firmly one foot at least, his own. It is not easy to transport 4.2 million people a day. It makes more than 1.5 billion people a year.

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To be honest – sometimes it is faster to walk several stations – there are usually very close to each other in the center. Fortunately most lines are dig so it is not necessary to take long elevators to the undergrounds. Several parts of some lines go in viaducts above the ground.

Glass barriers on platforms, metro train without a driver, and moreover on tires. For me thanks to the fact that I have been to France several times already it wasn’t a shock really. Yet it is very unusual for a Czech. I sit in the front and watch bright tunnel.

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Inhabitants of the underround

You encounter beggar at every other staircase. Sometimes someone tries to give you leaflets, well nothing interesting actually. Sometimes you hear a sax from some other corridor, or a trumpet, guitar, or drums. Blacks, whites, Indians – it doesn’t matter since French art is contagious. There are even those who play in metro trains. It is more annoying there, but otherwise… It’s great!

francouzske podzemi

Often the crowds tire me. The ones in metro in Paris are somehow exceptional. Despite its vastness Paris not so busy. I like to watch interesting people, I like to smile on them and I like when they smile back. There are many of such people going through corridors of Paris metro. And French ladies are famous for their charm …

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Text/photo: Matouš Vinš



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